Halifax salon offers women-only day for Muslims

A downtown Halifax salon has introduced a new service geared toward Muslim women, offering female-only hairstyling days to protect the privacy of women who choose to cover their hair.

Some Muslim women, for modesty purposes, choose to cover their hair in public and only uncover it in the presence of other women, or male relatives.

So every Monday at the CAS Spa and Salon, the men disappear.

"We put down the blinds, we lock the door and put a sign on that it is for women only at those times," said Lesley Williams, the spa's owner.

The salon has been offering the service since December.

"They spend a lot of time after they have their service done in the mirror, feeling their hair, touching it, and commenting on how much they love it," Williams said. "They're really excited to have full service."

Reema Alharthi, a student from Saudi Arabia, said "for any woman, going to the salon is a special thing."

When Alharthi moved to Halifax she tried to get her hair cut at another salon that was not sympathetic to her privacy concerns.

"[One employee] was like, 'No, we can't have that,' and she said that kind of in a rude way, so that was a disappointment for me," Alharthi said.

Alharthi said she told Williams two years ago about her difficulties finding a salon that would accommodate her wishes.

"She listened to me and she said 'Why don't we have it here?' " Alharthi said.

The salon has several dozen clients who use the service because they can remove their headscarves.

Alharthi said even though she covers her hair in public, getting her hair done makes her feel special.

"It's a beautiful feeling," she said.

Stylist Karen MacKenzie does all the cutting.

MacKenzie said her clients are excited when the scissors are put down. "I cut it a little bit shorter and layered it a bit more and she couldn't stop touching it before she left," MacKenzie said.

The salon's owner expects that with more international students and a growingly diverse population in Halifax the service will become even more popular.

Williams said she heard stories "all the time about how they were either rejected from other salons or had to have their hair done in someone's kitchen in order to ensure privacy. I wanted to take care of them."

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